Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not Falling For It

Now that the Supercommittee has failed to come to an agreement, guess who’s getting the blame.

In his most forceful language yet, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney today assailed President Obama, saying the president’s lack of leadership will be to blame if the congressional Super Committee fails to generate a workable debt plan before Wednesday’s deadline.

“What’s most disappointing about that is that our president has had no involvement with the process,” Romney said. “I find extraordinary that there would be set up a committee with such an important mission as finding a way to provide fiscal sanity in America and with the penalty if that fiscal sanity is not found of a $600 billion cut to our military.”

Actually the reason Mr. Romney is so upset is because, as Greg Sargent notes, Mr. Obama didn’t fall for the trap the Republicans set for him.

Either Obama and Dems would have had to accept a deal that involved near-total capitulation by them, making Obama look weak and further angering his base. Or, if Obama had gotten more directly involved and the supercommittee failed, he would have ended up more directly associated with the profound dysfunction of Congress, whose numbers are at record lows. That would have reprised the dynamic of the health and debt ceiling fights — spattering Obama with Congressional mud — and would have complicated his reelection strategy of running against Congress and its failure to act on the economy.

At any rate, the White House seems to be preparing to use the supercommittee failure to continue aggressively contrasting the priorities of the two parties and hammering Republicans as protectors of the rich above all else. That wouldn’t have been as easy to do if Obama had taken the GOP’s bait and gotten drawn into the supercommittee muck, as Republicans clearly hoped he would.

And, as Steve Benen reminds us, the Republicans asked the president to keep away from the negotiations.

[A]nother committee member, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said on “Meet the Press” that President Obama and White House budget officials “were asked to be hands off.”

“The Republicans said, ‘Don’t let Obama come into this, because if he does, it will make it political,’ ” Mr. Kerry said, adding, “They’ve been intimately involved, but carefully so that they didn’t politicize it. I think they did the right thing.”

Nice try, GOP. Next time, go with “Hey, your shoe’s untied.”